December 12th, 2011

Boys won’t be boys, and men…

aren’t being rewarded for being men:

If women have adapted well to the new economy, the same cannot be said for many men. Why not? It easy to paint the rise of working women as the reason why working men are losing ground, but that’s an oversimplification. In Boys Adrift (2007), psychologist Leonard Sax argues that men aren’t getting the training they need and blames the education system. The school curriculum is all wrong for boys. They’re taught reading and writing at too young an age. Competitive activities and hands-on learning are discouraged. Boys are reprimanded when they show an interest in war and violence. Taken together, these changes lead to the “widespread belief among the children themselves that school isn’t welcoming to real boys.” Restless and bored, boys are diagnosed as ADHD and medicated accordingly. If Tom Sawyer were a boy today, says Sax, he would be on Adderall.

Sax makes his case well, but I don’t believe the challenges facing men can be pinned solely on a female-centric education. Schools by themselves can’t affect a child’s life trajectory as much as we sometimes imagine. Overlapping political, economic and cultural factors are far more significant.

Government social programs are the culprit for the libertarian scholar Charles Murray. In a 2010 address to the American Enterprise Institute Murray relates the story of the janitor:

“When the government takes the trouble out of being a spouse and parent (through a range of government social programs like welfare, healthcare and daycare), it doesn’t affect the sources of deep satisfaction for the CEO. Rather, it makes life difficult for the janitor. A man who is holding down a menial job and thereby supporting a wife and children is doing something authentically important with his life. He should take deep satisfaction from that, and be praised by his community for doing so. Think of all the phrases we used to have for it: “He is a man who pulls his own weight.” “He’s a good provider.” If that same man lives under a system that says that the children of the woman he sleeps with will be taken care of whether or not he contributes, then that status goes away. I am not describing some theoretical outcome. I am describing American neighborhoods where, once, working at a menial job to provide for his family made a man proud and gave him status in his community, and where now it doesn’t.”

Murray’s poignant description of the impact of welfare state programs is on the mark; it has been played out to devastating effect in many inner-city communities. However, the moral hazard created by government overreach is overstated for those men in working class and middle income communities whose lives have been dislocated by the recession and long-term economic changes.

Journalist Hanna Rosin describes a group of men in Kansas City who could be Murray’s janitors. In her essay “The End of Men” (Atlantic, June 2010) she calls them “casualties of the end of the manufacturing era.”

“The 30 men sitting in the classroom aren’t there by choice: Having failed to pay their child support, they were given the choice by a judge to go to jail or attend a weekly class on fathering, which to them seemed the better deal. Like them, he [the social worker running the class] explains, he grew up watching Bill Cosby living behind his metaphorical ‘white picket fence’ — one man, one woman, and a bunch of happy kids. ‘Well, that check bounced a long time ago,’ he says…’All you are is a paycheck, and now you ain’t even that…What is our role? Everyone’s telling us we’re supposed to be the head of a nuclear family, so you feel like you got robbed. It’s toxic, and poisonous, and it’s setting us up for failure.’ He writes on the board: $85,000. ‘This is her salary.’ Then: $12,000. ‘This is your salary. Who’s the damn man? Who’s the man now?’ A murmur rises. ‘That’s right. She’s the man.'”

It’s a case of unintended consequences—or, if you believe this is all part of the left’s plan, it would be a case of intended consequences.

34 Responses to “Boys won’t be boys, and men…”

  1. Trimegistus Says:

    Family is a source of loyalty and identity which most people consider more important than the Party. Therefore families must be atomized. Religion is a source of meaning and community. So religion must be destroyed. Work is a source of wealth and pride, so work must be made the reward for poltical loyalty.

    The Party is all. All power flows to and from The Party.

    They may call it Progressivism or Liberalism or some new buzz-word, but I know Fascism when I see it.

  2. Occam's Beard Says:

    Yep. Leftists see the family as the driver of competition; everyone wants to do best for his family (particularly mothers for their children), and the collective can go hang. So the family has to go.

  3. Occam's Beard Says:

    Murray raises an interesting point that hadn’t occurred to me, in contrast to the egregious feminization of education.

    My boys (now early and mid teenagers) have been forced to make dioramas (whatever those teach) and all other manner of arts and crafts, and on occasion to work with others to, e.g., write a report. This is just not boy-like. Smashing, or blowing up dioramas, now we’re talking, but they’d probably get psychiatric counseling for that.

    Competing comes naturally and easily to boys, but that’s discouraged both in the classroom and (God knows) on the playground. One principal forbade tag, in case someone should fall and skin a knee (!). Dodgeball was streng verboten. (Someone might get hit with the ball. Duh.)

    Essentially school represents a hostile work environment for boys, where they are given to believe that their natural proclivities are aberrant. Which, for girls, they are. But they’re not girls, despite educators’ best efforts to make them such.

  4. Don Carlos Says:

    Interesting how the Leftists in power are as devoted to their kids’ success as any nuclear family.
    It’s a corrollary to my observation that, in their personal lives, all Leftists are capitalists.

  5. MissJean Says:

    It appalled me that in the original article, the commentors seemed stuck on blaming “feminism” and women who initiate divorce. The whole point of the article is the perfect storm of economic, cultural and political factors. Personally, I think that technology has been an enormous factor in the changing of culture and education.

    A typical example: Lots of young men in my hometown would get a job in manufacturing or the military when they left high school. Not anymore. Our local school district phased out woodshop, metalshop, and other skilled trades because they were no longer in demand. Now there’s a manufacturing class using computer-aided design.

    Just last week, the local navy recruiter pointed out to our kids that judges are learning that “enlist or go to jail” is no longer a sentencing option. The Navy wants people who are mentally and morally excellent. They won’t take the barely-made-it graduate or the juvenile offender.

  6. George Pal Says:

    Throughout grammar school I was taught by nuns, every one of whom new what boys required by way of education – responsibility and some authority. Nearly every boy, and especially the ‘active’, were expected to participate, from altar boys (no girl servers), to patrol boys (no girls), to light janitorial services (no girls), to tutoring the younger.

    You want men? Give them responsibility and authority. You want men responsible for their children? Give them back their children.

    This is not merely a case of feminists in the school or yet another liberal idea gone haywire, This is as so many article and book titles suggest, WAR.

    “The average age of those abusing Ritalin today? 10 to 14, ladies and gentleman. In that age group, Ritalin is more popular than Cocaine, no doubt due to it’s availability. Our schools tell them “Just Say No” to drugs, and then hand Ritalin out like it’s candy. They may treat it like aspirin, but it most definitely is not. Ritalin is a controlled substance. What that means, is that every time your doctor writes a prescription, he must fill it out in triplicate. He keeps a copy, he gives you a copy to have filled, and that third copy is sent directly to the DEA, where they keep it on file. The DEA puts manufacturing limits on controlled substances – all of the drugs must be accounted for each year- and the manufacturer is only allowed to make so much (although every year that limit is raised higher and higher). Also important to know, is that anyone filling that prescription is registered in the DEA database as a Class II drug user. Did your doctor tell you that? I bet not. If your child uses Ritalin, according to the 1999 Military Recruitment Manual, Class II drug users may not join the Air Force, Army, Marines or Navy. Ever. Never ever. They are Class II drug users. So much for Johnny being an Astronaut. If your child uses Ritalin, the State or Federal Government can not hire them for any job that requires security clearance, or involves state or national security. They are a Class II drug user. They can be turned down for life and health insurances, or be charged higher rates or even have a pre-existing condition clause added to their policy – because they are Class II drug users. How nice.
    What Do You Really Know About ADHD Drugs?! by Barbara Norden

    And that’s how you get rid of men in society and in authority.

  7. MissJean Says:

    Occam’s Beard, my dad and uncles (now in their 70s) made dioramas in school and in Boy Scouts. That was considered a masculine project, much like model-building, and girls didn’t like it very much. So I guess it’s just our perspective that’s changed. (In fact, I just mentioned it to one of my students who wandered in after school and he told me about an awesome, big-as-your-table diorama of an emcampment that he and his dad made – but then, he was homescho.)

    Personally, I think the parents are the reason that education has changed. Tomorrow my students are taking part in a horribly competitive game involving running and grabbing in order to practice vocabulary. I stopped doing it one year because a young man got carpet-burn and his father hinted at suing. (And yes, I was tenured, but that means nothing.) Yet in another class, a 200-pound football player tackled his 120-pound buddy as a JOKE – wiping out a podium in the process – and it was handled with a verbal warning and an afterschool project of rebuilding the podium.

  8. Occam's Beard Says:

    Couple disjointed thoughts.

    MissJean, I don’t think dioramas teach anything at all, and therefore are a waste of school time, but that’s me. (Doing one for fun, on a topic of one’s choosing, is a nice pastime I’m sure.) Fortunately, I never had to do one in school.

    (I should mention that the principal cited above moved on (back to the Bay Area, where she belonged), to resounding cheers from the students, who detested her.)

    Your allusion to the threat of a lawsuit touches on a critical aspect, the litigiousness/avarice of parents nowadays, who consider every contretemps of their precious snowflake as an opportunity for a payday.

    Last, if you want to see effective teaching of boys, watch the average Pop Warner football coach. I helped with a team, and was shocked that the PC writ did not run there. Quite the contrary. A kid who repeatedly missed a block heard about it in no uncertain terms, bellowed across a field, in traditional football coach style (minus the profanity). Pretty soon, he got it.

  9. Parker Says:

    I teach a kid’s (ages 7-12) martial arts class. Fully 75% of the parents bringing a new boy to class express a desire that the classes instill self-esteem in their children. I patiently explain that I’m not in the esteem business and that what I demand from each student is self-discipline, respect for others, and the development of a personal work ethic. I also explain that this is how one earns respect from others and that this in turn leads to self-respect. I tell each parent that esteem is bestowed and respect is earned. What is earned is far more valuable than that which is freely given. 99% of the time the parent (usually a woman) has not a clue as to what I mean.

    “It’s a case of unintended consequences—or, if you believe this is all part of the left’s plan, it would be a case of intended consequences.”

    At this point it doesn’t matter, its what society has to deal with.

  10. Yohnitzl Says:

    The school curriculum is all wrong for boys. They’re taught reading and writing at too young an age. Competitive activities and hands-on learning are discouraged. Boys are reprimanded when they show an interest in war and violence. Taken together, these changes lead to the “widespread belief among the children themselves that school isn’t welcoming to real boys.” Yes, those were the “real” Anglo-Saxon boys who beat me up, in 3 agonizingly long recess sections a day, every day. All physical, incredibly anti-intellectual, competitive in everything. And back in the benighted British early 1960s, teachers believed that those were the qualities that “won us the War”, and encouraged their violence, specifically against me! (Don’t tell me that their own classic British anti-white-foreigner prejudice and indeed antisemitism wasn’t involved.) Both my parents believed that Britain was the country that invented fair play and the gentleman, so they simply disbelieved me about what was going on.

    No. If Czech boys, or French boys, or Israeli boys are NOT like that (and they’re not!), don’t assume that’s the way “real boys” are. I think “real boys” as Leonard Sax characterizes them are the product of redneck culture – as Thomas Sowell points out, as much originally Southern Black as originally Southern White – and that redneck culture originates in English working-class culture: good for recruiting the cannon-fodder that builds Empires or expands the Frontier westwards, but not a lot of good for anything else.

  11. expat Says:

    Maybe smaller families are also a factor. Two of my aunts had large families and we spent a lot of time with them, partly out in the country. Parents couldn’t possibly smother the boys or the girls, and as soon as a kid was able to help with work, they were expected to, whether milking the cow, feeding the pigs or picking apples. Usually the older kids took one of the younger ones under his/her wing. And because there was always an older kid watching out, the younger ones got to explore and try things outside of the parents’ watchful eyes. Kids saw their parents doing things that were necessary for them to live: fathers repairing a vehicle or fixing the screen door: mothers canning, cooking and sewing. Kids had lots of opportunities to find their strengths and interests. If we were good, we might get a trip to the local swimming hole (perhaps piled in the back of a pickup) on Sunday afternoons.

    Today, life seems more scheduled and rigid and boring.

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    Occam’s Beard: I hated making dioramas, relief maps, and the like, and I hated doing things in groups or teams (one person always ended up doing everything and the rest got a free ride). So I don’t see that as a male-female thing at all.

  13. Mike Mc. Says:

    Intended consequences.

    Anyone who thinks the Left really “intends” good but bybad luck pr apmething alwaysends doing INCREDIBLE harm is in classic denial; a sucker; delusional.

    It’s not even close. We have a century of data.

    Until we start calling Dems out for the evil people they are, we will never defeat them.

    They are evil and rotten. They really do intend harm, or they are willfully ignorant about it.That is the best case for them – that they could know and should know but refuse to know on principle and on purpose.

  14. Occam's Beard Says:

    neo, you may be right. I assumed the dioramas and collaborative projects were a function of their having female teachers (cooperation vs. competition, and all that). And you’re right – collaborative projects inevitably lead to one person doing the work, while the others stand by.

  15. Darrell Says:

    Interesting article that ties in with missjean’s point on shop classes going away:

  16. expat Says:

    I don’t remember any forced collaborative projects like dioramas. We did work together on extracurricular things like decorating for the proms, but then the students sort of chose among themselves those people who would be best for different jobs. The artsy girls needed the mechanical boys and vice versa. And one time we even had some guys who “borrowed” park benches for a Central Park setting. We were definitely not in the class that hired limos for the prom, but we had fun.

  17. Occam's Beard Says:

    expat, the enforced collaborations were on reports. The dioramas were single-handed efforts (not counting parents).

  18. rickl Says:

    I don’t remember dioramas, but once I made a relief map of Ohio. Trouble was, Ohio doesn’t have much relief. It’s pretty flat. But I did the best I could with what I had to work with.

  19. expat Says:

    Thank heavens I escaped the dioramas then. My brother would have destroyed it or the dog would have eaten it and I would have flunked.

  20. Occam's Beard Says:

    But think of the yawning chasm in your education.

  21. neo-neocon Says:

    In my school, dioramas were always made from shoe boxes with peepholes cut in them. Is that the usual way?

    How about these? And I could have used instructions like these.

  22. SteveH Says:

    The problem is liberals are people indoctrinated to believe that everything in society needs to be 180 degrees opposite before the world can get fixed.

    Which makes about as much sense as a slugger in a slump deciding to grip the bat by the other end.

  23. Paul in Boston Says:

    “The problem is liberals are people indoctrinated to believe that everything in society needs to be 180 degrees opposite before the world can get fixed.”

    Nah, it’s simpler than that. They’re incompetent and think that every time a ligtbulb burns out you need to replace the electrical system. It’s true ’cause their electrician told them so.

  24. Adagny Says:

    Whether it’s being “out-earned” by his woman, “out-parented” by the Gov, or feeling displaced in the educational system, boys and men have been psychologically and spiritually hosed.

    Knowing the left, and looking at who exactly have been the bestowers of all these just and caring programs and policies, its near impossible for me to see anything unintended.

    Yohnitzl, I think the point was about letting “boys be real boys”. It’s about an integration of the “whole-male” into the educational process, instead of the feminization that we now have. Your thugs were bullies, and bullies come in all races.

  25. Occam's Beard Says:

    neo, yep, pretty much. We didn’t bother with the peephole, though.

    Paul’s got a point. Liberals view any imperfection as a damning indictment of the entire system, rather than as something that could benefit from a small tweak, or, in many case, something that should just be lived with, as any cure would be worse than the disease.

  26. bad haikumenter Says:

    Die, damn orama!
    Smash mash trash thrash decipulvernihilate
    Die, damn orama!

  27. Don Janousek Says:

    In the late ’50’s, we played dodge ball during recess using a softball or a baseball.

    In those days, men were supposed to get a job, support their family and protect their wives and children.

    We were surrounded by the men who survived The Depression, won World War II and behaved like men.

    We were not taught that men made dioramas or needed to get in touch with their feelings or be vulnerable and all the liberal squish which now passes for manhood.

    Take a gander at the “men” now on TV and in the movies – cute little girlymen who think soccer is a rough sport and are worried about their masculinity.

    We have raised a generation or two of wienies. How sad.

  28. zeke Says:

    The other thing that happened in the 60’s is that manual labor — and industry — began to be demeaned. Pick up any issue of Life magazine from the 30’s and 40’s and you will find articles that celebrate workers in factories, in shipyards, on farms or in construction. Think of the famous photos of the Boulder Dam, or of men high in the air welding girders for skyscrapers (think about the symbolism of this for a moment).

    Try finding any articles like that after about 1968. Blue collar workers, rubes on farms (aka rednecks), men who wear hard hats to work: aren’t they the ones who hoot at and abuse women? hate minorities? ruin the environment? vote for Richard Nixon fer chrissakes??

    IE: the working man, and the jobs that both sustained him and in which he took pride, became enemies of the Left in the 60’s. Now, you’re a failure and a loser if you work on a farm or in factory or in industry. So what’s left besides the military, government work, teaching, professions (law or medicine) or financial services? What happens to the men who can’t or won’t do these things?? They are supposed to spend their lives apologizing for who they are and what they do.

  29. Beverly Says:

    I had an interesting experience when I tried, unsuccessfully, to get some liberal-hawk men to talk about their POV on the derogation of traditional masculine virtues. It was weird, and sad: to a “person,” they all squirmed around and protested repeatedly that it was NOT ONLY men who could _____ [fill in the blank].

    I said, yeah, sure, some women can fight effectively (though most of us, honestly, would prefer not to!), but whatever happened to being able to admire a man who “knows how to handle himself in a fight”? Why is that verboten?

    Again with the squirming. Again with the “it’s not only MEN who can fight, are brave, yadda yadda.” Not one of them would address the question.

    Similarly, it’s now okay for any homosexual guy to claim equal access to being a Marine, no matter how sissified he is? Since when, and in what universe, does that make sense? And you don’t have to be in favor of picking on gays, for cryin’ out loud, to know that most of them couldn’t hack it for temperamental reasons alone.

    But they’re all sacred cows now. Contrary to all the horse sense that our culture, and everyone else’s, has had for millennia about this matter. Same thing with the attempts to make women and men “identical.”

    I do favor equal opportunity for everyone. Let anyone who wants to take a crack at a job, go to it! But for heaven’s sakes, let’s preserve some sense of reality. Look at what happened to the East German women swimmers, for instance: they were given massive doses of male hormones, and though their muscles got stronger, guess what? their more delicate, gracile skeletal frames couldn’t take the extra punishment. They’ve all had terrible health problems in the following years.

    It’s also sensible, as a female, to look for a man who will take care of you and provide for you while you are vulnerable and need help during your pregnancy, and with a baby and toddler afterwards. What do we women gain by denying this basic reality? do we really want men to be nothing more than sperm donors? Or do we really want to shoulder ALL the burdens, just to “prove” that we can?

    I see my nieces, all in their early twenties, struggling with these idiotic mores, and I can tell you they aren’t happy with it.

    I am just old enough to remember some of the restrictions on women’s achievement, and I do have a respectably high IQ, and chafed at the oldtime, unthinking condescension meted out to the “brightest” of us. Really infuriating, in fact; and frustrating. But I never thought that gelding our men was the answer.

  30. SteveH Says:

    “”the working man, and the jobs that both sustained him and in which he took pride, became enemies of the Left in the 60′s. “”

    Thats partially right. What the left wanted was to choose and bestow these jobs only amongst the right thinking party (democrat) supporters. Hence all the roadblock regulations that discourage the common man entering the fray but favor big bureacratic labor unions that supports the party whether its members want to or not.

    It’s all cronyism and facism straight up.

  31. CZ Says:

    Nothing new here. With a 12 year Catholic education background I can safely say the nuns favored the girls from first grade (1959) on. They all were treated as special and it was obvious. Until Mindy got knocked up in seventh grade and was sent away.

    If gals misbehaved they were lectured but guys got smacked, and I mean physically. Nuns hate men, that’s why they became nuns.

    We had a class size in grade school of 42 students. Many are now doctors, attorneys or other career professionals but some are dead from overdose.

    Education is what one makes of it and parents like mine who expect results.

    Not buying the psychobabble.

  32. waltj Says:

    Yohnitzl: What happened to you was thuggery, which was not tolerated where I grew up. Sure, we had our occasional one-on-one fights, but gangs were unknown, and the sort of bullying you describe did not happen to anyone that I knew. The parents, especially the dads, were happy to allow us to settle our little scraps “like men”, but never let it get out of hand.

    From a big picture perspective, one reason I think we learned to handle our own affairs was that our parents were there, but most of them didn’t hover the way I see parents doing today. I had no skin on either knee for most of my childhood. This was considered the norm for boys my age at the time. Lawsuits against the school or city for not making its playgrounds, sidewalks, etc. “safe” never came to mind. We played tackle football and ice hockey without protective gear, rode bikes without helmets, caught wasps in mason jars, and climbed anything we could. Yes, we paid for it sometimes (I broke a wrist falling off a skateboard), but it was looked at as a “learning experience” by my parents, not as an opportunity to get rich by suing the skateboard manufacturer.

  33. Occam's Beard Says:

    Beverly will like this one. Back in 70s, the Berkeley Fire Department required applicants to be able to carry a 120 lb. sack (of cement, I believe) down a flight or two of stairs.

    The feminists – then in full malignant flower, if that’s not too politically incorrect – howled about the discriminatory effect of this test, because a lot of female applicants couldn’t do it. (Fair enough; it was body weight for most of them.)

    Upshot: test removed. Now why would a fireman ever have to carry a 120 lb. weight down a flight of stairs? I guess a male victim of a fire was just SOL (unless he weighed less than 120 lbs.)

    A similar story obtains with the police department and climbing over a six foot fence. I left before this one played out, and so don’t know the fate of the test, but I asked a friend who was a Berkeley cop whether cops commonly had to climb over fences. His answer: “All the time. Few perps are polite enough to run down the street so you can just drive up behind them.”

  34. david foster Says:

    Zeke…”Now, you’re a failure and a loser if you work on a farm or in factory or in industry”

    One of the on-line dating sites did a survey, and found that for the majority of women, “works in manufacturing” is one of the worst disqualifiers for a man.

    I’ve seen comments by high-level manufacturing people…plant managers, company owners, etc…suggesting that they encounter the prejudice against manufacturing even at their levels.

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